On December 13th at 80Forty gallery, Lola will debut her first major exhibition in two years, and perhaps her most personal, “The Younger”. Her new series of twenty oil paintings also includes some of her largest to date. When we visited her studio in Los Angeles this week, she described it as “something to really get lost in”. Her childish characters embark from their storybook lands into unfamiliar territory- Lola’s childhood reality. The spirit of a ‘younger’ Lola is present in images of freckled young girls playing with reimaginatings of toys like Pacman and Pez. In this new world drawn from memory, Lola tells us the story of her creative upbringing. We took a moment to discuss her exhibition while she worked.
HF: Describe your style in your own words.
LG: I suppose I’d say I’m a modern-day Surrealist. I have a major emphasis on storytelling, and use subtle symbolism.
HF: “The Younger” is your retelling of your beginnings as an artist- when did you first discover you had a talent in art?
LG: I’ve always created, thanks to my dad encouraging my brother and I as kids. I guess I really noticed that I could draw when I was living in San Francisco in the late 90s, and I started painting on a daily basis. It caught the eye of my friends who worked a tattoo studio, and I took my first creative job.
HF: You became a professional tattoo artist- Has that prepared you at all for the art you create now, or lend itself to your current style?
LG: I don’t know that it prepared me at all. But I think what it did do was to really humble me when creating my own work. I only worked as a tattooist for two years, but I painted the whole time. It was always what I really wanted to do! But back then there wasn’t such a thing for someone like me to have a professional painting career.
It may have taught me to have a steadier hand as well. [smiles]
HF: Has being a mother influenced your art in ways that it didn’t before you had children?
LG: Most definitely. Before they were in my life, I was all over the place. I moved a lot, I never tackled things head on. They’ve grounded me and warmed my heart. They’ve been my subjects in paintings for years and years, and though I’ve never really noticed it, my paintings have grown up nearly parallel to the growth my girls have.
HF: Tell me the story behind this piece you are currently working on, “Kinko Kanko”.
LG: In this particular painting, I wanted to send an homage to my grandfather, who always gave me canvas and paints and brushes as a young girl. He and my grandmother were avid toy collectors. Since I was born, they gave me a world of toys to fuel my imagination. They were the kind of people who bought toys before they were valuable. They planned to open a toy store, but became addicted to collecting and ended up with an endless and wonderfully vast collection of some of the most amazing toys. Because of my time growing up playing at their house, I had all the best imaginary friends in the world. My mom was very strict, and I didn’t have hardly a friend. My friends were those toys.
“Kinko Kanko” puts me right back to the worlds I would create while at their house. Spock represents my grandfather, with similar demeanor. Star Trek being a regular program on their tv… filled with Disney-esque Donalds and toys.
HF: You’ve hidden a lot of your own belongings, like these vintage toys, into your paintings. Do you have a recurring character, animal, or toy that you like to paint?
LG: If anything, I have a reoccurring dynamic with my characters and their pets. Because I grew up with cats and dogs and turtles and birds, my subjects always have a companion.
HF: How is “The Younger” different from your previous shows in terms of style, palette, and theme?
LG: I’ve always had a subtle growth, since I’ve been painting regularly at the age of thirteen. When my work started showing professionally in 2004, I was going through a divorce and had my two young daughters to take care of, as well. I had just watched my grandfather die quickly of pancreatic cancer. He was the one who showed me that painting could be therapeutic, thus important- so, it was especially difficult time for me. However, I kept my work, visually, more light-hearted to help ease through those real life circumstances. I always have felt fortunate that viewers saw something wonderful in my early works.
As the years have gone on, I’ve been compelled to challenge myself to create more difficult imagery as I continue to learn my craft. It’s easy to get caught up in a particular style and then be known for that. I’m never conscious of how my work evolves… but for this particular show, I like to think I’ve grown quite a bit.
I started painting in oil, which opened up the chance to work from reference, as well as expand my imagination. I have been trying to really breathe life into my subjects, and give them a more tangible world.
Thank you, Lola.
“The Younger” by Lola will open December 13th at 80Forty, located at 8040 W 3rd Street, Hollywood, CA 90048.